The word of the day is… “unintentional”.
That word never worked when I was a kid. I claimed the broken window was “unintentional”. I watched the third of two TV shows I was allowed, but it was “unintentional”. And forgetting to take out the trash? Again? Yup, that was “unintentional” too. To my credit, often these things weren’t planned out, or deviously prepared. They just happened, and so were “unintentional”. But that never meant I was free of punishment for them. I still had to help pay for the window, lost my TV time for the following day, and had to mow the lawn for a month. Such were the punishments for my “unintentional” sins against my family.
In Confirmation, we define sin as “all in thought, word, and deed that is contrary to the will of God.” But implied in this definition is a level of intentionality. And that doesn’t jive with what we’re reading today. Like my childhood antics, our sins are not always intentional. Sometimes we sin because we forget. Sometimes we sin because we didn’t know the rules. And sometimes we sin with no intention of sinning. But nonetheless, we have sinned. Even unintentional sin is sin.
So are we punished for unintentional sins as we are for our intentional ones? YES! We are punished the same for every sin we commit. Which is to say, we aren’t. Because Jesus took that punishment upon Himself on the cross. You see, while sin is definitely a big deal, I wonder sometimes if sin is a bigger deal to us than to God. We keep trying to define sin, categorize sin, point out sin, and even stop sinning. But for God, these are always fruitless tasks. We are sinners, people, and nothing we can do can stop that. And that’s the Good News – while we were (are!) still sinners, Christ died for us. So unintentional or not, God has forgiven our sinfulness, and with that information in hand, we can begin to truly live.